Over the past few weeks, schools around the state, including here on the Kenai Peninsula, have implemented heightened security measures in response to threatening phone calls.
While it is unclear whether the calls are being made with malicious intent, or are somebody’s bad idea of a prank, what it clear is that school districts and law enforcement agencies are taking threats to students’ safety seriously.
The most recent incident on the Kenai Peninsula occurred Wednesday, when two schools received computer-generated phone calls. School district officials immediately informed law enforcement, and schools around the central peninsula went into “stay put” mode, during which all students remained in their respective buildings and outside doors were locked, but classroom instruction continued. The heightened security measures were lifted after law enforcement deemed the threat not credible. According to the school district, that took less than an hour.
“Stay put” measures differ from a full lockdown situation, during which schools would implement the new A.L.I.C.E. (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) protocol, during which all interior doors would be barricaded and classroom instruction would cease.
As worrying as recent incidents have been for school staff, they have been just as worrying for parents, who frequently hear about security measures being implemented before school officials are able to disseminate accurate information. Until recently, it seems our biggest safety concerns involved wildlife wandering onto the playground. Times have changed.
While it has unfortunately been out of necessity, the school district continues to hone its safety procedures. Following Wednesday’s incident, parents of students at affected schools received email and phone messages with details about the threat and the security measures taken. Good information and good communication are essential in ensuring situations, while they need to be taken seriously, are not blown out of proportion.
At the same time, it is essential for the community to continue to take any threat to our children seriously.
Staci Feger-Pellessier with the FBI in Anchorage said the agency is investigating the phone calls.
“It is our job to prevent and deter what is happening and make sure the calls stop, but we need to make sure people are vigilant and treating each of those threats seriously,” Feger-Pellessier told the Clarion.
With similar threats popping up around the state, and all of them deemed not credible, it would be easy to hold off on implementing security measures while law enforcement investigates.
However, when it comes to our children, we would rather the district continue to exercise an abundance of caution.